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Spellbound (2002)

Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 17 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Arenivar ...
Herself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ubaldo Arenivar ...
Himself - Angela's Father (as Ubaldo)
Jorge Arenivar ...
Himself - Angela's Brother (as Jorge)
Scott McGarraugh ...
Himself - Ranch Owner (as Mr. McGarraugh)
Lindy McGarraugh ...
Herself - Ranch Owner (as Mrs. McGarraugh)
Concepción Arenivar ...
Herself - Angela's Mother (as Concepción)
Mrs. Slaughter ...
Herself - Angela's Teacher
Neelima Marupudi ...
Herself - Potter County Champion (as Neelima)
Nupur Lala ...
Herself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ms. Whitehurst ...
Herself - Nupur's Teacher
Parag Lala ...
Himself - Nupur's Father (as Parag)
Meena Lala ...
Herself - Nupur's Mother (as Meena)
Kuna Lala ...
Himself - Nupur's Brother (as Kuna)
Ted Brigham ...
Himself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ms. Blair ...
Herself - Ted's Teacher
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Storyline

This documentary follows 8 teens and pre-teens as they work their way toward the finals of the Scripps Howard national spelling bee championship in Washington D.C. All work quite hard and practice daily, first having to win their regional championship before they can move on. Interviews include the parents and teachers who are working with them. The competitors not only work hard to get to the finals but face tremendous pressure as the original group of over 250 competitors is whittled down and the words they must spell get ever more difficult. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Little kids. Big words. American dreams. See more »


Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

27 June 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Agonisma orthografias  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$17,508 (USA) (2 May 2003)

Gross:

$5,728,431 (USA) (5 December 2003)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In 2007, it was added to "IDA's Top 25 Documentaries" of all-time by the International Documentary Association ranked #4. See more »

Goofs

While interviewing Harry in his room the boom mic is deliberately shown after Harry asks "Is that thing edible?" See more »

Quotes

Former Spelling Bee winner: I don't think it really helped me, in my love live; my nascent love life. I think that having won something like that could be regarded as being a significant liability.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is no cast list; a cast member is considered credited if a subtitle or an item in the film prints the name (or partial name). See more »

Connections

References Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
a great film
31 May 2004 | by See all my reviews

"Spellbound" is one of those documentaries that isn't soaked with politics or social dilemmas, but it is touches on them indirectly. It's the story of 8 kids from all over the United States, their study habits, lives, relationships with parents and personal beliefs, views and opinions. And how they make it to the National Spelling Bee Contest.

These stories are all incredibly touching - my favorite is about one of the girls' grandfathers who illegally crossed the border into the U.S., got held at a detention center, then, finally accepted into the US, worked really hard and finally now, in his old age is able to say that he is happy. That he saw his kids get great education and good opportunities; essentially that all his hard work didn't go to waste.

The film is also tense - it communicates the tension inherent in any contest quite effectively here. By acquainting the viewer with the children before the contest an empathy is established and you find yourself rooting for them. You may not even realize it until, towards the end of the film, the filmmakers throw in a brief interview with a young, Jesus-freak kid and I didn't care which one of the eight kids featured in the documentary won as long as he didn't. I got what some would call "passionate" about the outcome of the contest.

Needless to say, it's a great story. It explores the tensions of fitting in at school, parental pressure, competitiveness and hobby/interest becoming an obsession. Some have said that it is a film about America, but I wouldn't venture as far. The film says far too little about the origins and history behind the Spelling Bee contest to be about an "American phenomenon," much less about a "phenomenon" of any kind. It's a film about one Spelling Bee, but even more so about eight kids who compete in it. And their parents and siblings and teachers. It's easy as hell to get a rush of memories from childhood watching this film, and it's oftentimes easy to cringe at the intensity of the entire affair. But, all in all, "Spellbound" is a great documentary which doesn't belittle its subject, but gives it its fullest attention - the product is a tense, funny and dramatic film about kids bonding over a common obsession, while aggressively competing. Logorrhea.


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